May 28, 2015—In fall 2011, I arranged to visit Spier 142, a large pueblo site in the El Morro valley. We hold a conservation easement on 160 acres, most of which protects the site. Because driving to El Morro is a long trip, I made a few calls—as I often do in such instances—hoping to visit with other landowners in the area whose properties include important archaeological sites. At the top of my list were the owners of Davis Ranch. The family had been ranching in the area since 1916, and their ranch includes a number of large sites—including Los Gigantes, which we now own.
As luck would have it, while sitting outside the property at Spier 142, I got a call from Anita Schafer, one of the three Davis sisters who were now running the ranch. My earlier call turned out to be fortuitous, she said, as they had been thinking more and more about the ranch and the archaeology. Anita invited me over to talk with her and her sisters, Pam and Kristi.
So, I popped over, had a cup of coffee, introduced myself and Archaeology Southwest, and learned about the ranch’s history. For example, the Davis Ranch also includes part of the Vogt Ranch, acquired by Evon Zartman Vogt, Anita’s grandfather on her mother’s side. Vogt acquired his ranch in the early part of the twentieth century, after he moved west from Chicago because of a health condition. Evon owned one of the larger sheep ranching outfits in the area, and he served as the first superintendent of El Morro National Monument. He and Shirley Bergman Vogt were the parents of Evon Zartman Vogt Jr., a renowned Harvard anthropologist.
Vogt lost the ranch to bankruptcy in the 1930s, but did retain one Section that included the rock ranch house he had built; it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The rock house is on the Davis Ranch today, where its 100-year anniversary will be celebrated this year.
Paul Davis, Anita’s father, first acquired land in the area with a few other partners after World War II, as part of the Ramah Land and Cattle Company. When the company dissolved, Paul and Jo Ann (Evon Zartman Vogt’s daughter—Anita, Pam, and Kristi’s mother), took possession of what would become the 8,000-acre Davis Ranch. Paul and Jo Ann had a long and welcoming relationship with many archaeologists over the years, and their thoughtful and attentive stewardship ultimately provided us with the opportunity to protect Los Gigantes.
All the sites on Paul and Jo Ann’s ranch—many of which are large habitation sites—have, without exception, been protected from looting of any kind. This is quite remarkable: large pueblo sites are often vandalized, and finding so many free from human disturbance is rare. That these sites are intact is a testament to the Davis family’s stewardship.
Paul and Jo Ann’s daughters—Pam, Anita, and Kristi—all grew up on the ranch and shared their parents’ preservation ethic. After many years away, the sisters are back living on the ranch property. Two years after our initial meeting, as estate planning for the family ranch reached maturity, the sisters were able to begin making definite plans for the property. Archaeology Southwest’s finances needed to align, however, and it was another two years before we could mutually agree to a plan.
That plan came to fruition last week, enabling us to acquire 100 acres at Los Gigantes and meet the needs of all three sisters. Persistence on everyone’s part to find a way to make it work and a shared preservation commitment are often a winning combination when trying to protect the places of the past. It’s a privilege to work for Archaeology Southwest and to have, with the support of our Board and our members, the opportunity to persist.